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Defining Educational Governance

The evolution of the concept of “educational governance” has taken place in tandem with the general evolution of the concept of “governance”. The emergence of “governance” is relatively recent, only dating back to the 1990s and especially to the second half of the decade (Prats Carala 2005). The last 15 years have seen a proliferation of different usages of the term “governance” to the point that today a canvas of interpretations about its forms, usefulness, and implications coexist (Martinez 2005; Prats Carala 2005). The definition of “governance” becomes even more convoluted if one considers that it has both normative and analytic components.

The first usage of the term governance was related to modes of governing of a hierarchical nature (i.e. steering), but it has been amplifying its meaning to include broader definition of the public, thus moving from state-centric visions to those that look at “the social” from a networks perspective. This amplification of the notion of governance has brought to the forefront a host of different actors (parents, unions, NGOs, corporations, international agencies) that are seen as key players—along with the state—in the process of policy making (Prats Carala 2005, 165).

Educational governance can be thought of as synonymous with “educational regime” in the sense that it encompasses implicit and explicit norms that define who the relevant actors in the educational field are, what the legitimate channels for expressing their demands are, what resources they possess, how they are supposed to interact, and their respective responsibilities (O’Donnell 1996; Hyden 1992; Prats Carala 2005). It is thus possible to say that while educational governance has a structural dimension that constrains interaction, there is also plenty of leeway for social agency and improvisation.

A reform in governance implies a change in the “rules of the game” or the norms that regulate the interactions and decision-making processes among actors (Martinic and Elacqua 2010). Governance regimes define the relationship not only between state and other relevant actors, such as parents and teacher unions, but also between its various parts, such as school centers, local governments, and central authorities (UNESCO 2009).

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